New Edition exploded out of anonymity from the Orchard Park Projects in Roxbury, Massachusetts in the early 1980s, selling millions of albums as the stamped the template for the boy band super-groups of the ‘90s and beyond. At one time, they were bigger than Beat It, when their 1983 debut track Candy Girl beat out one of Michael Jackson’s signature hits for the top spot on the Billboard chart. In the meteoric and fraught years that followed, they would break up and reunite while spawning the solo careers of Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill, along with the quadruple platinum collaboration of Bell Biv DeVoe.
When this foundational tale debuted over three nights last week on BET as The New Edition Story, it instantly became the network’s most-watched premiere since The Game dropped in 2012. The show went on to average more than 4 million viewers per episode across BET and sister network Centric while dominating the social media conversation for three consecutive nights.
The tale resonated in part due to its raw, unfiltered nature, delivering the uncensored drama of the exhilarating climb to success, the infighting that led to break-ups and reunions, the wild back-stage mingling amid groupies and substances, and the financial collapses that defied their spotlight. This scene depicting the group members’ mothers’ rage at receiving a check for $1.87 after a sprawling and highly successful tour is typical:
“Normally biopics are padded with dramatic falsehoods for entertainment,” wrote Billboard’s Niki McGloster, “but as the executive producers of the film, New Edition kept the story true to how they lived it.”